With harsher winter weather on the way, we take a look at how to keep safe on the road in winter weather. Do you need a 4WD SUV?
It’s almost Christmas, the roads are getting busier and everyone’s looking forward to a bit of a break. But, so far, most of the UK hasn’t seen any sort of properly bad weather. But it’s coming and, if the climate change proclaimers are anything to go by, winters in the UK are going to get colder, snowier and slippier in the future.
That might make you think that what you need – what you really, really need – is a big 4×4 to make sure you’re immune from the laws of physics and can blat around with impunity whatever the weather. But you’d be wrong.
It actually doesn’t matter how many driven wheels you have, or how high up you sit, you can’t find grip where no grip exists. So what do you do?
The answer, and not something most UK motorists consider, is fitting winter tyres. Test after test has show that a front or rear-wheel drive fitted with winter tyres will perform almost immeasurably better in snowy, icy and slippy conditions than a four-wheel drive car fitted with summer tyres.
Yes, it costs a few bob initially, but unless you’re only planning on keeping your car for a short time it probably won’t cost you much at all; just rotate the summer and winter tyres each November and April and you’ll only ‘spend’ the same amount on ‘rubber’ over a few years as you would using just summer tyres.
But, we hear you cry, we feel safer in a 4×4.
Fortunately, even at the ‘Premium’ end of the market, there are now ways you can drive an SUV without spending a fortune and, fitted with winter tyres, it doesn’t need to be 4WD and cost an arm and a leg either.
There are options from many ‘Premium’ makers now for compact SUVs, and although the options include the very good Volvo XC40, there are some cracking Jaguar E-Pace lease deals around, as Jaguar chase sales, which will give you either a 4WD or FWD E-Pace at sensible money that doesn’t break the bank. And you’ll help out Jaguar too, which isn’t finding things exactly easy at the moment, what with trade wars and Brexit.
Having caught up in Jaguar’s sales charts with the F-Pace, the E-Pace is now selling over 4,000 a month, and it offers a great balance of practicality and appeal and comes with the ‘high ride’ seating position which makes drivers feel safe.
But whatever you choose, do make sure you invest in winter tyres. But please, don’t think you can compromise by fitting the winter tyres just to the driven wheels; the difference in traction between the two axles will chuck you off the road in no time.